When I think of Full Motion Video (FMV) with live actors, I think of delightfully cheesy B-movie style interactive films from the ’80s and ’90s. These games were nothing more than a bit of amusement and a curio of the past. But more recently, FMV has shaken off that stigma and garnered a lot of attention through games like Her Story, The Bunker, and Telling Lies, for creating engaging stories with outstanding performances from live actors.
After Danganronpa, it might be a bit disappointing to see that Death Come True plays it safe, but a lot of things come together to make this FMV title enjoyable.
Still, I was surprised when Danganronpa series scenario writer, Kazutaka Kodaka, announced that his first post-killing game endeavour would be an FMV adventure game, Death Come True. With a stand-out cast including Yūki Kaji (voice of Eren Yeager from Attack on Titan and Shoto Todoroki in My Hero Academia), Kanata Hongō (Ryoma Echizen from the live-action adaptation of The Prince of Tennis) and Chiaki Kuriyama (most famously known for her many Tokusatsu appearances), Death Come True is full of star power, and everyone brings in solid performances to elevate an otherwise safe first attempt at an FMV game.
Even before you get into the game, lead actor Hongō appears on screen to dissuade players from spoiling any element of the story. The initial premise is set with Makoto Karaki waking up in a hotel room. Having lost all of his memories, he looks at the television only to find out he is a serial killer. After letting a police officer into his room, the officer attempts to apprehend him with Makoto shot dead during the struggle. Then here’s the twist: you hit continue on the “game over” screen, Karaki wakes up in the same hotel room yet remembers everything that happened before he died. With this knowledge, he seeks out the answers as to who he is and what’s going on in this strange hotel.
Most of the time you’re left to sit and watch a movie play out, the only interactivity provided by choices as you progress through the game. These choices either move the story along or end in Makoto’s death, and most of the time it’s not hard to figure out what the right answer is. The biggest problem for me is that the deaths are all lacklustre, with no real shocks. Some come out of the blue, and others are built up and end flat. Certain endings are also the only way to see specific characters, and they often show up for less than a few minutes. You could go an entire playthrough without seeing one, which can be a little confusing considering some of these cast members have been part of the promotional material.
Every time Makoto dies, you get rewarded with a Death Medal. Getting all of the medals is fairly easy at least, as you can fast-forward through the story until you get to one of the choices. There are 16 of these to collect, and they unlock various videos in DeathTube, which can consist of easter eggs, news clips mimicking the news channel that plays in the main game, or behind the scenes clips. Sadly, none of these are subtitled. I don’t think the videos are vital to understanding the story, but it’s an extremely odd and frustrating omission that, unless you can understand Japanese, makes completionists feel unrewarded. It’s even more unusual given that the main scenario has subtitles in ten different languages.
After Danganronpa, it might be a bit disappointing to see that Death Come True plays it safe, but a lot of things come together to make this FMV title enjoyable. The film itself is well written, and Kodaka is still playing to his strengths in the narrative. People familiar with his work will see similar threads from his previous games, but a significant tonal departure. It’s not excessively violent, it moves at a snappy pace, and the characters aren’t over-the-top: it very much feels like a typical mystery film. It’s actually nice to see Kodaka take a step back and rein in some of the wilder ideas we saw during the killing games of his previous franchise. I also think the acting is really great too. Kuriyama as Akane Sachimura in particular deserves praise for delivering a believable performance, especially when things start to get unusual.
I also think this is one of the best-shot FMV games I’ve ever played. Death Come True genuinely feels like a movie, and watching it I felt like I could be seated in a cinema, worrying whenever the lead character makes a wrong choice (or, in the game’s case, you). Playing it on the Switch is a different story, however. Many of the FMV sequences stutter throughout, both docked and undocked. It was particularly distracting during key scenes towards the end of the game, where every few seconds the scene would pause briefly before jolting into the next piece of dialogue. Still, the production values and cinematography pull through, and hopefully this issue is something that can be patched out.
Death Come True won’t blow anybody away, but it’s a solid, short FMV game that can easily be completed in a single evening. It doesn’t take any major risks, but a strong cast and good production values show that a lot of love has gone into this title. It’s also refreshing to see Kodaka step away from the themes and style that made Danganronpa so great, and even though the results aren’t groundbreaking, this can happily sit amongst the other games that have been released during this FMV renaissance.